Celtics Vs Lakers: The Fultz vs Ball Era

Markelle Fultz (left) and The Celtics vs Lonzo Ball (right) and The Lakers. (Projected teams.)

They say History repeats itself. For the two most storied franchises in Basketball, relevancy and title aspirations always come during the same period, inciting one of the most bitter and well documented rivalries in all of American sports. Wilt vs Russell, Magic vs Bird, Ball vs Fultz? .The first meeting between the two fabled franchises was on November 9th,1948. The rivalry intensified in 1959 when the Celtics and Lakers met in the Finals for the first time. Boston swept the Lakers in four games that year. The rivalry then intensified even further in the 60’s when the two franchises met eight times in the Finals. Boston won all eight times during their span of 12 straight Finals appearances and 11 Championships.The two foes met again three times in the 80’s during the Magic vs Bird era. Los Angeles won two of the three meetings over the Celtics. After enduring the Michael Jordan years during the 90’s, the two rivals met twice in the late 2000’s. The Lakers, led by SuperStar and Future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant and All-star Pau Gasol, faced the Celtics,led by a trio of Future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett,Paul Pierce,and Ray Allen along with All-Star Rajon Rondo.The two teams split the meetings in the late 2000’s. Boston won in 2008 in a six game series, while the Lakers won the 2010 meeting in a seven game series.However,after this series Lebron James and Chris Bosh decided to join Dwayne Wade in South Beach and play for the Miami Heat,who would make four straight final appearances.As a result Kobe and the Celtics quadruplet of stars aged and never played at the same level again.

As crazy as it sounds, this could be the next big Lakers-Celtics Rivalry. While on paper it seems extremely unlikely, with Boston competing for the 1st seed in the East, one must look back and say the unlikely is possible. In 2013 after having realized they could not compete with the Miami Heat, the Boston Celtics decided to jump ship and send Paul Pierce,Kevin Garnett,and Jason Terry for a pair of 1st round picks from the Brooklyn Nets. Little did they know they would be receiving the 3rd pick in the 2016 NBA draft, which they used to select Jaylen Brown out of Cal, and the projected 1st overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. This is a case of the Rich getting richer. In retrospect, Los Angeles, a historically great franchise, has failed to make the playoffs in the past 3 season and has lost franchise cornerstone and future hall of famer Kobe Bryant. Last season, Los Angeles was awarded the 2nd overall pick, in which they Selected Brandon Ingram out of Duke University. Now, the two most storied franchises in NBA history now head in different directions. One, a playoff team with an overabundance of picks and young talent, and the other a bottom feeder who is unsure if they will even keep their pick in this year’s draft.

Bill Russell (left) and the Celtics vs Wilt Chamberlain (right) and the Lakers in a regular season game in 1970.

This story is written completely hypothetically,in the sense that both teams retain their picks and select first and second respectively. Imagine the 2017 NBA Draft, Commissioner Adam Silver appears on stage and says “With the 1st overall pick the Boston Celtics select, Markelle Fultz Point Guard, the University of Washington.” As ESPN shows Fultz walking up the stage, the camera changes and shows a fire burning in the eyes of UCLA Pg Lonzo Ball as his Father Lavar whispers to him “ Don’t worry, the Lakers want you and this is what we want.” The Commissioner then takes the stage again and announces, “With the 2nd overall pick in the NBA Draft the Los Angeles Lakers select Lonzo Ball Point Guard University of California Los Angeles.” After this pick a new chapter of Celtics vs Lakers begins, Ball vs Fultz, the Magic Johnson type playmaker in Ball vs the Larry Bird type Scorer in Fultz. Lonzo Ball a 6’6” Pg who can make a team better with his passing and defense lacks the ability to take over a game scoring wise. While Markelle Fultz a 6’4” Combo Guard who can Score the ball with ease and set up teammates, but lacks the ability to make the entire team play better. Both players know that their names will forever be etched side by side, both players know that playing against each other will bring a special meaning to the game, and lastly, both players know that when they touch the floor versus each other it is a matter of win or be ridiculed. Both of these players will take different roles in their new franchises. Fultz will be viewed as another piece of the puzzle In Boston’s hopes to win a title now, while Ball will be viewed as the savior for the Lakers.


Larry Bird (left) and the Celtics vs Magic Johnson (right) and the Lakers in the 1985 Finals.

Markelle Fultz,a 6’4” 195 Lb. Combo Guard out of the University of Washington,averaged 23.2 ppg,5.7 rpg, and 5.9 apg while shooting 47.6% from the field. Fultz,a 5-star recruit out of Maryland, was viewed as a game changer since his major performances at the Olympics and All-American Games. Fultz has the ability to play on and off the ball, contributing from catching and shooting or making plays to get teammates open. If Boston selects Fultz #1, it will give them a starting SG to replace 2018 Free agent Avery Bradley and will give them a secondary ball handler alongside All-Star PG Isaiah Thomas. With Fultz the Celtics would have the Heir to Isaiah Thomas if they decide not to pay him a max deal when he is set to become a free agent. While they decided to keep the pick instead of trading it for All-Star SF Paul George of the Indiana Pacers or All-Star PF Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers, the pick of Fultz would make Boston an even greater contender for a NBA Championship for years to come.


Lonzo Ball,a 6’6” 190 Lb. Pg out of UCLA, averaged 14.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, and 7.6 apg while shooting 55.1% from the field. A year before the Bruins landed the 5-star recruit out of Chino Hills High school in Southern California they were at the bottom of the PAC-12 and were ranked in the 150’s in Offensive efficiency. In Ball’s first and only season at UCLA, they were consistently ranked in the AP Top-25,a 3-seed in the NCAA Tourney,and were ranked in the top 10 in Offensive Efficiency. For the Los Angeles Lakers this would mean drafting a pass first PG and being able to move D’angelo Russell to the SG spot. If the Lakers draft Ball their starting lineup in the 2017-2018 season would look like this: Ball,Russell,Ingram, Julius Randle, and Ivan Zubac. If Ball could change the dynamic of the Lakers the same way he did at UCLA then the Lakers would have an increased Offensive efficiency and would have a starting lineup of players under the age of 25. This means Lonzo Ball would bring back the winning ways of the Lakers and it could last for a 10-year span.

Markelle Fultz (left) and the University of Washington Huskies vs Lonzo Ball (right) and the UCLA Bruins in their first matchup at UW. (2017)

Lonzo Ball and UCLA faced off twice versus Markelle Fultz and the University of Washington. In both matchups Ball and the Bruins got the upper hand beating Fultz and the Huskies by an average of 36.5 points.In their first matchup on February 4th at Alaska Airlines Arena in Washington, the Bruins won by a score of 107 to 66. Lonzo Ball led the Bruins with 22 points,5 assists, and 6 rebounds. While,Markelle Fultz put up 25 points,5 assists,and 6 rebounds in a losing effort. Ball had the help of fellow freshman TJ Leaf, who scored 20 points and grabbed 10 boards, and senior guard Bryce Alford,who scored 22 points with 5 3-pointers made. However, Fultz and Noah Dickerson, who scored 10 points, were the only Huskies in double figures. In their second matchup on March 1st at Pauley Pavilion UCLA beat a Markelle Fultz-less Huskies 98-66. Lonzo Ball once again led the charge with 19 points,8 assists,and 7 rebounds.While it is clear that Ball has the edge on Fultz in the college level this does not mean that the same will translate in the NBA.

Lonzo Ball’s (middle)  quote on ESPN on fellow draftee Markelle Fultz.(2017)

Boston and Los Angeles have always been rivals.These two are now set take the reins and become rivals as well, but they will be competing in a world where everything is over analyzed on social media. Lonzo Ball stated on National Tv that he believes he is a better player than Markelle Fultz. Fultz on twitter liked this and there sparked a social media rivalry. While many teams frown upon players having feuds online, it is typical nowadays. As these two compete on the court, many companies will aim to sell this competition. As Magic and Bird were sold as brands alongside each other,so will these two young ballers.
The argument could be made that these two players will help lead their (hypothetical) teams to the playoffs and Finals for many years to come. Both have extremely high ceilings and will have the opportunity to show off their skills from their first days in the NBA. As fans we hope to see this develop into a rivalry as great as the Celtics and Lakers of old, Wilt vs Russell, Magic vs Bird, and potentially Ball vs Fultz.

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